Conducting Research in the National Library of Medicine

National Library of Medicine

The National Library of Medicine (NLM), founded in 1886, is the world’s largest biomedical library.  Most visitor information can be found at the NLM and NIH websites, though there are some items of importance to know before arriving.

The National Library of Medicine is situated at 8600 Rockville Pike, on the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.  Though a few documents are housed off site, most items are kept in the main library, accessible from one of the two reading room (see below).

Getting There

There are several ways to get to the Library of Medicine in Bethesda.  The closest Metrorail (subway) stop is nearby, at Medical Center on the Red Line.  After getting off the Metro escalator, walk straight past the bus stop to reach the Visitor Center Gateway.  There is also a bus that goes from the Medical Center Metro stop to Building 10 on the NIH campus, but that is in the opposite direction of the NLM.  See a map of the metro for more information.

If you are driving to the NLM, there is metered parking available, as well as free handicap parking, both accessible from NIH Gateway Drive.  Parking is limited, and costs $2/hr for the first three hours or $12.00 for the entire day, and all cars are checked by security.  Other options include parking garages around Bethesda (information here), the closest being Lot 35, a 15 minute walk from the NLM.  From Lot 35, walk north on Woodmont, cross Battery Lane to Wisconsin Ave/Rockville Pike, and enter the Visitor Center Gateway on the left.

Many hotels provide a shuttle to the NIH campus.  For more information, see below at “Where to Eat and Where to Stay”.

Expect typical security measures, such as bag inspection.  Visitors will be issued an identification badge at the Visitor Center, which must be shown at the NLM entrance.  From the Visitor Center, signs to the Library of Medicine (Building 38) are clearly marked.  Hours for the Visitor Center Gateway are Monday-Friday, 6:00am to 10:00pm, while the NLM reading rooms are open Monday-Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm.

Prepare in Advance

It is important to plan before your visit.  The National Library of Medicine has an online catalog, which provides information on the location and availability of items. If you already have a library card, you may also request items from the catalog.

Reader Identification Card

Researchers much have a library card in order to request items.  To begin, fill out and submit a form on any public computer in the Main Reading Room.  Proceed to the Information Desk with a photo ID (such as a driver’s license, passport, military ID or university ID) to receive a library card.

Reading Rooms

There are two reading room in the National Library of Medicine.  To get to the Main Reading Room, enter the NLM through the main entrance, head straight into the Exhibit Hall, then take a left.  To reach the History of Medicine (HMD) Reading Room, turn right from the main entrance.

Materials may be requested in either the Main Reading Room or the HMD Reading Room up until one hour before closing.  General collection items must be picked up in the Main Reading Room, but may be taken into the HMD Reading Room.  HMD collection items can only be picked up at and may not be taken out of the HMD reading room.

Where to Eat and Where to Stay

Besides vending machines, there is no food available at the NLM building, but there is a cafe next door at the Lister Hill Center.  There are also many places to eat throughout the NIH campus, including cafes and concession stands.  NIH provides a list of food options here.  There are shuttles available to visitors that circulate the NIH campus.  The closest shuttle stop is in front of the Lister Hill Center (Building 38A).

There are a number of hotels in Bethesda that provide a shuttle to the National Institute of Health campus.  There are also numerous hotels near Red Line Metro stops.  A full list of convenient hotels is located here.